Flames lose pair, clinch playoff spot

Third and fourth conference seed still up for grabs

The Ridge Meadows Flames dropped two straight last weekend after clinching a playoff berth with their overtime win over the Aldergrove Kodiaks last Wednesday.

The local junior B hockey club fell 4-2 to the Mission Icebreakers at home Friday night before falling 9-6 to the Port Moody Black Panthers after eliminating the Kodiaks last week.

“Most of the guys knew we had clinched a spot, so the effort wasn’t there,” said head coach Tavis Eaton. “We have the talent there, when they want to use it.”

Just where in the playoff picture the Flames will slot in remains to be determined, however.

With just a single game left in the regular season, the Flames sit in third place in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League’s Harold Brittain Conference with 42 points (20-23-2). If the Flames can manage to hold on to the third seed, they will face second-place Port Moody in the first round.

However, nipping at their heels are the Mission Icebreakers with 39 points and a game in hand. The Icebreakers have won two straight and could bump the Flames out of the third spot, setting up a first round series with the Abbotsford Pilots.

The Flames are 3-4 against the Pilots this season, and 2-3 against the Black Panthers.

Either way, the Flames’ fate will be in their own hands this Friday when they face the Black Panthers at home in their final game of the regular season.

Eaton said he wants his team to set the tone for a possible first-round match-up with Port Moody.

“They have lots of speed, guys who can score, good goaltending, and so do we,” he said. “I think we have very similar teams.”

After an abysmal start that saw them go 5-8-4 in the first two months of the season, Port Moody has since found their game, going 16-9-2 since.

The Flames had a similarly rocky start to the 2010/11 season, going 8-16-0 before a December turn-around that has seen the team go 12-7-2 in the past three months.

However, a stronger effort will be needed then that on display Saturday night against Port Moody, as the Flames gave up four goals in five minutes with the game tied in the third period.

Despite allowing nine goals, Eaton said not all the blame can be laid at the feet of goaltender Mackenzie Skapski.

“When we score six goals, we should win, but it’s not all Mackenzie,” Eaton said. “We fell apart, and we didn’t get very good defence.”

Skapski faced 21 shots in the final frame alone, with 56 shots getting fired his way all night. The Flames, meanwhile, managed just 37.

“You can only hold on for so long,” said Eaton.

Danny Brandys had a five-point effort that included a hat trick, enough to keep him in the PIJHL’s scoring race with 68 points – three less than league-leader Liam Harding of the Abbotsford Pilots. Linemates CJ Legassic and Dustin Cervo also racked up some points, with Legassic notching a pair of goals and assists, while Cervo registered a trio of helpers.

Both Ryan Stewart and Shane Harle were out of the lineup last weekend due to suspension and a knee injury, respectively. Both players will be ready to go for Friday’s game.

• The Flames play their final home game of the regular season Friday at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge against the Port Moody Black Panthers. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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